Zhi Liu: Public Space, Value Creation, and Sustainable Municipal Finance: A New Agenda for Chinese Cities

Zhi Liu is director of the China Program at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and of Peking University – Lincoln Institute Center for Urban Development and Land Policy in Beijing, China. Previously as a lead infrastructure specialist at the World Bank, he had many years of operational experience mainly in East Asia and South Asia, where he managed investment lending projects and analytical and advisory activities in the infrastructure and urban sectors. Before joining the World Bank, he was a research associate with the Harvard Institute for International Development. He also taught city and regional planning as a faculty member at Nanjing University. He has authored and coauthored a number of academic papers and World Bank reports on various topics including metropolitan infrastructure financing, low-carbon city development, municipal finance, sustainable urban transport, motorization, and poverty and transport. He holds a B.S. from Zhongshan University, an M.S. from Nanjing University, and a Ph.D. in urban planning from Harvard University. In 2015–16, he served as a member of the Expert Committee for China's 13th Five-Year National Social and Economic Development Plan.


Urban public space is a social space that is generally open and accessible to people on a daily basis. It is not only a key element of city livability but also a contributor to the land and housing property values. This is confirmed by a host of empirical studies. However, a significant missing element in China's cityscape is public space. This neglect can be traced back to the historical city plans where public spaces for urban living and leisure are rarely found. But why are public spaces still missing in modern city planning practices? Why do public spaces disappear while both the urban government and real estate developers attempt to maximize land and housing property values? In this presentation, Liu will argue that urban public spaces fall victim to the land-based financing practices due not only to the absence of a government process to safeguard public interests, but also to a lack of understanding of the linkages between public spaces, value creation, and municipal finance. Liu will also discuss the possibilities of introducing value capture mechanisms into China's urban planning and financing.  

Cosponsored by the Department of City and Regional Planning and the Cornell Contemporary China Initiative of the East Asia Program
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